A “Make America Great Again” flag supporting President Donald Trump was flying outside the Long Beach Police Department headquarters this weekend, sparking outrage on social media and a denunciation from police officials.
Ian Thomas Malone, who posted a picture of the flag on Twitter, said she was walking past the station at 400 West Broadway a little after noon on Saturday when she noticed it and was horrified.
“I live right next to the police station,” said Malone, a transgender author and film critic who says she experiences online harassment on a daily basis. “It sickens me that they’d tolerate this.”
Police said they weren’t aware of the flag until Sunday morning. At that point, police employees used bolt cutters to remove the flag, which had been padlocked in place, according to the LBPD.
“A crime report has been taken and an investigation is underway to determine who is responsible for this incident,” according to police, who said the city of Long Beach flag that normally flies on the pole had been stolen.
“The LBPD is an apolitical organization and does not participate in any political activity that promotes one political party over another,” the department said in a statement. “Flags or images depicting political activity are not authorized or endorsed by the LBPD.”
It’s not clear how long the MAGA flag was flying or who put it there. It was in a secured area that’s blocked off because of construction on a police headquarters parking lot. Primarily construction employees have access to the area, police said.
On Sunday afternoon, police released grainy video they said shows someone crossing the street, entering the fenced-off area and changing the flag. They did not say when the footage was recorded.
We’re still reviewing evidence to find those responsible for this. Video shows a subject cross the street, enter our lot which is under construction & change the flag.— Long Beach PD (CA) (@LBPD) October 4, 2020
No indication the subject is a #LBPD employee & we’re working w/ construction company to locate any witnesses. pic.twitter.com/8toJXWmXQ1
Police department employees are responsible for raising and lowering the flags, but that’s not something they do every day, a police official said.
Malone noted that a tree partially blocked the flag from view. It was clearly visible only when walking up Chestnut Avenue from the Long Beach Civic Center toward Broadway.
Malone said she and her partner were shocked when they saw the flag on Saturday and went back later that afternoon to get better pictures of it.
“I moved to Long Beach because of its progressive reputation,” she wrote.
As pictures of the flag spread on Twitter and Reddit, users started calling on the city and Mayor Robert Garcia to address the situation.
“As a transgender resident, I’m horrified that this is even allowed to happen,” Malone tweeted. “Long Beach is a very diverse city, the opposite of Trump’s America.”
Staff writer Crystal Niebla contributed to this report.